By Todd Wells, GT-Hyundai professional cycling
Last time I checked in I had just crossed back over the border from my Mexican adventure. The sunshine and warmth down south seem like a nostalgic memory. After coming home just long enough to catch a cold, I was off again, this time for the first NORBA National in Tapatio Springs, Texas.
The NORBA National Mountain-Bike Series had never been to Tapatio Springs before this year and it was at a golf resort so how bad could it be? The weekend started off pretty well with some threatening sky’s but not much more. The TT and Short Track went off with out a hitch but then the rains came. It was the type of rain where you’re watching TV and those flood warnings keep scrolling across the bottom of the screen every ten minutes.
The course was slick to begin with before the rain. There was the classic Texas slick dirt/mud, plenty of tricky rock ledges and some slippery roots thrown in for good measure. Not too much climbing and plenty of single-track. Once the rain started and hundreds of riders had tracked mud over the rocks the traction actually got better. By the time the Pro race started the rain had stopped and the splattery mud was quickly turning into peanut butter. I was suffering like a dog after lying in bed all week with the Mexican flu but managed to trudge on. People’s bikes were clogging up with mud so badly I saw them dragging them on the trail because they weighed too much to pick up. Lucky for me I was riding the flat/uphill technical single track pretty well and by the end of the race I had moved up to ninth place. I could see the Sideshow Bob figure of Wicks up ahead but my hands were full of mud and I couldn’t shift into my big ring to catch him before the finish.
The first race turned out to be one of those races where you take your clothes off and deposit them directly into the trash can because the mud will never come out. It was funny seeing JHK in the Fisher uniform but he seems to have adjusted well to his new team. I think him and Trent are wearing Gary Fisher’s personal windbreakers because they look to be about five sizes too big. Our new team director, Jon Agnew went through three rental cars in the first hour he was there. First they gave him a PT Cruiser, which he said he couldn’t drive because it’s a PT Cruiser. Then they gave him some other car that he proceeded to crash while killing time before I flew in site seeing around the Alamo. Finally he ended up with some other car he managed to keep for the rest of the weekend.
I returned to my makeshift winter home of Tucson for two more weeks of sun before the Phoenix NORBA National. The weather was great and I even got to hang out with the 1145 Crew (Guptil, Hayes, Lee and Kuhl) from Durango. They came down for the week from Durango for spring break. It’s always funny to hear Tucson people say “You came here for Spring Break?” but when you’re living in wintery Colorado, a eight hour drive to the land where the Saguaro cactus grow is a great getaway, especially when you’re a bike racer.
I managed to get some more road racing in the following weekend in Yuma, Arizona. I had never been to Yuma before but have always stared at the desert town on the weather channel because it always seems to be the hottest spot in the country during the winter months. The weekend I did the race there the temperature was 98 on Saturday and 93 on Sunday. The race was pretty uneventful other then the high temperatures the drive to and from the race through the greenest desert I have ever seen. I have been visiting AZ for the past ten years and have never seen the landscape as green as it is this year from all the rain.
I had a few days back in Tucson before I had to pack up my winter home and head to Phoenix for the second NORBA National. I got to stay with my friend Trafton who had just bought a new house only a mile or two from the hotel the team was staying at. The weather in Phoenix was much better then Texas two weeks earlier.
The course was fun to ride but tough to race on. It was all single track with cactus on both sides and pea gravel that made traction sketchy. I managed to pull out a second in the Short Track after slipping a pedal at the start and dropping back to the 30s. The cross country went pretty well also as we rode around in a group of six for most of the race. Kabush attacked with two to go and our group splintered about ten minutes from the finish and I ended up on the tail end of things for sixth place.
In the never-ending confusion of how the points work, short track points were given off the short track and cross-country points were given off the G.C. comprised of TT, STXC and XC. I managed to get sick again right before the race but it wasn’t nearly as bad as my Mexican Flu. Tree Farm managed to get three flats in the eight-mile time trial and another one in the short track. Maybe it’s because the guy is 6 foot 6 and runs 30 psi.
In-and-Out burger was the fuel of choice for everyone after the race. I even got pulled over on my bike for making a right at a stop sign with out stopping even though there was no traffic. Luckily I didn’t get a ticket because I’ve got them before and they’re expensive.
I’m finally back home in Durango after spending the last two months based out of Tucson. Town is still getting snow on and off and there’s plenty of new gossip. Frank Mapel retired and is now Meg’s personal photographer for her figure skating show. Jeremy Powers has been in town training and trying to fatten everyone up with Jelly Bellies after a great European cross campaign. Everyone is excited for Danielson after his incredible TT in Spain. Bowman had a good ride also at the Tour of Lombardy last week. Walker is even in town right now visiting Wherry, doing some riding but more drinking. Hopefully they don’t get beat up and robbed again.
I wonder what Gully’s doing…..